Juvenile kingies get a royal flush from stocking “cannon”

Another 20,000 juvenile yellowtail kingfish have been stocked into Perth waters – the latest batch of fish to be released in the State Government’s three-year yellowtail kingfish stocking program.

Fremantle Sailing Club and the Cockburn Powerboats Club each hosted the release of 10,000 juvenile yellowtail kingfish hatched and reared at DPIRD’s Australian Centre for Applied Aquaculture Research (ACAAR).

The initiative was part of the recfishing COVID recovery package announced by Premier Mark McGowan and Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland in August, 2020.

All the fish were released at a slightly larger size than previous release in the 15-20g bracket using DPIRD’s “kingie cannon” – a large pipe down which the fish gush out straight into their new environment from DPIRD’s stocking trailer.

Not only does this improve the transport and release of the fish, but also increases their chances of survival into larger line-sizzling giants that metro sport fishers.

With these kingies now released after the most vulnerable phase of their lifecycle, combined with their fast growth rate – nearly 5kg in only 18 months – it should mean those fish that make it into adulthood should be of legal size by 2024.

Daniel Bullock with a nice adult yellowtail Kingfish caught off Perth – photo courtesy of Beau Suladra

Need tips and advice on how to catch kingies? Click here for Scott Coghlan’s Scott’s Species article on catching kingies

Play your part and send DPIRD your kingie skeletons

All the juvenile kingfish reared for these releases team have had their otoliths (ear bones) stained allowing fish from the stocking program to be identified when caught and analysed in the future.

The initiative is breaking new ground and fishers can play a part in helping monitor its progress by donating their kingie frames to DPIRD’s Send Us Your Skeletons program.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said the collaboration with DPIRD along with support from Daiwa, Recfishwest’s official community fish stocking partners, is a great example of how partnership-working and fishing stocking programs can have positive benefits for recreational fishers.

“These kingfish like the rest of their Seriola family are hardy, fast-growing – so they’re a great species for stocking,” said Andrew. “The first batch of fish released two years ago should have reached legal size by now – so it’s going to be interesting to see if and how many of these fish start showing up in fishers’ catches.

“We’ve been really pleased to see the Government getting behind innovative initiatives like this – we don’t just want sustainable fish stocks, we want abundant fish stocks and it’s really important fishers play their part by donating their kingie frames and assist in determining just how effective stocking of pelagic species like these can be.”

Check out our happy snaps from the kingie releases

 

Scott Species – Broadbill swordfish, iconic globally, elusive locally

Xiphias gladius

Eating: Four stars

ID: Long, broad bill. Large eye. Brownish/black along the back.

Broadbill swordfish are an iconic species, a global sportfishing target prized by recreational and commercial fishers alike.

However, it is the latter category of fishers that see far more broadbill, due to the far offshore locations where they are found, as showcased in the Hollywood disaster movie based on a true story, The Perfect Storm, when captain Billy Tyne took his ill-fated crew to the middle of nowhere on a broadbill hunt that ended tragically.

Of the billfish species we have in WA, broadies are the most elusive. This is the case even though they are found right the way along the coast all the way south to Bremer Bay.

Always need heavy gear for these beasts!

Because broadbill usually live in very deep water, beyond the Continental Shelf, they are hard to target for most recreational anglers. However, some do and the Exmouth Game Fishing Club actually has a state-wide competition for this enigmatic species.

I’ve only ever seen one and it was out wide off Exmouth after a trip to the Monte Bellos. Conditions were perfect and skipper Bernie Vale decided we would try for broadbill. He had a spot with a sheer wall in very deep water and while we were hopeful it felt like needle in a haystack stuff as the baits went down.

Within a minute or two one of the lines went off, much to our surprise. The line went slack and we wondered what had happened, but when we heard splashing off in the distance we dared to dream. And so it was, with a decent broadbill swordfish emerging out of the darkness some time later. Caught by Gavin Cameron, it was at the time a record at around 65 kilos. With that big eye and imposing bill, the broadie was an amazing sight.

I was next on the rod, but lightning didn’t strike twice. The Exmouth area is probably the most likely spot to target broadies, with the Shelf so close to shore. Inn Keeper Charters in Exmouth has actually specialised in catching them.

They have been caught off Perth though, and off Albany and Bremer Bay. There was also a very lost one swimming around inside a Perth marina a couple of years back. Far be it from me to offer too much advice on catching a fish I have only ever seen once, but those who target broadbill have honed their craft and can be quite confident of catching these ghosts of the deep most times they fish.

You can’t mistake a broadbill swordfish for anything else. Gavin Cameron with what was at the time a record fish, caught off Exmouth.

The fishery is still very untapped here in WA, but on the east coast is far more popular and consistently productive, as their anglers have unlocked the secrets to catching them regularly.

Where they were considered primarily a night target they are now often caught during the day. Fishing personality Al McGlashan in one of the east coast anglers who has helped crack the broadbill code. Growing up to 4.5m and more than 500 kilos, and living up to 15 years, broadies require a very specialised approach.

Good electronics are obviously a must, as you need to be able to see canyons and walls in up to 600m of water, along with bait. Broadbill eat fish, crustaceans and squid, and our Exmouth one was caught on the latter.

Rigs are best left to the experts, but one consistent part of the outfit is usually lights, which help to attract the fish in the dark way down below. Obviously a heavy sinker or sinkers is needed to get the bait down to where the fish are.

Once hooked, broadbill are clearly a very strong opponent and many are lost during the fight. They will come to the surface and jump, as ours did.

Due care is needed when bringing them to the boat, as that large bill for stunning prey can cause serious damage, Broadbill are regarded as exceptional eating, so even though they are a big fish they never go to waste.

Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks highlight need for better marine park planning process

Recfishwest has praised the Broome and Derby fishing community and Traditional Owners for their role in reining back original plans for the Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks following the State Government’s and Traditional Owners’ joint announcement of the revised final plans on Sunday 31 July. 

Announced just days before Christmas in 2020, the original plans would have locked fishers from 95 per cent of the most valuable fishing waters in and around the Buccaneer Archipelago. 

However, following serious concerns from the local fishing community, Traditional Owner groups met with local fishing representatives in October last year to discuss cultural and fishing values.  

The meeting, together with submissions from fishers resulted in a revised plan announced on Sunday which maintained some fishing access to important areas such as the Inland Sea, Strickland Bay, the Graveyards and several creek systems north of Derby. 

FIND MORE INFORMATION ON THE BUCCANEER MARINE PARKS PLANS HERE

The final plans allowed for continuing access to some key fishing locations which were off limits in the original plans. Photo: Unreel Charters

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland said, “While certainly not the greatest outcome for fishers, it could have been a lot worse and the final management plans to be implemented allow for continuing access to key fishing locations which would have been off limits under the original draft. 

“The Bardi, Jawi, Mayala and Dambimangari Traditional Owners and members of the local fishing community, particularly the Broome and Mary Island fishing clubs, should be congratulated for working together in a meaningful and respectful way to achieve a more balanced outcome than the stark scenario we were all confronted with back in 2020. 

“All the fishing club members and local fishers who took the time to fill in DBCA’s consultation survey also deserve credit – their input has undoubtedly helped achieve a better outcome.”  

However, the final plans could have been greatly improved with a more inclusive process from the outset, and an opportunity was missed to set up an early foundation for collaboration between Traditional Owner groups and fishers developing these marine parks together.  

A failure to understand how fishers use and value the area 

“Recfishwest, along with local fishers are supportive of Traditional Owners and traditional knowledge playing a greater role in the protection and management of these areas,” said Andrew.  

“The traditional knowledge of the Buccaneer’s sea country and aquatic environments has been built up over thousands of years. This places Traditional Owners in a strong position to protect sea country through management approaches that integrate this knowledge.  

We were disappointed that the original plans lacked the recognition of important family-friendly experiences such as fishing for mangrove jack, fingermark and barramundi in the creeks and nearshore waters. This omission highlights how the process was flawed in failing to properly understand how fishers use and value the area. 

Recfishwest is pleased to see a change of consultation approach for marine parks currently being planned for the south coast and for the extension of the Marmion Marine Park in the Perth metro region. 

The Fisheries Minister’s commitment to providing a support package to fishers and charter operators impacted by the Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks was also noted by Recfishwest.  

“What is needed in the future, however,” said Andrew,” is meaningful recognition by Government marine park planners of recreational fishing’s importance to coastal communities and visiting fishers’ lifestyle and culture.  

“The aim must be improving fishing experiences rather than simply locking fishers out of key fishing locations that have been enjoyed by generations of West Aussies.”

The Buccaneer is truly spectacular Sea Country. Photo: Annabelle Sandes

Scott’s Species – bludger trevally, the north coast party gate crashers

Carangoides gymnosthesus

Eating: 2 stars

ID: Elongated body with brown/golden spots. Pointed head.

Bludger trevally aren’t something you generally expect to catch. They are more an occasional capture bobbing up while chasing other species.

However, when they do show up they usually are like the most out-of-control party gate crashers – bringing a heap of enthusiastic friends and causing chaos!

Bludgers often show up in huge schools. I remember veteran Pilbara fisherman Darry Hitchen telling me once that bludgers were the only fish he had seen that would create such water movement the water level seemed to rise around them.

A pack of bludger trevally chasing down a popper

I actually did experience this phenomena at the Mackerel Islands not long after he told me the story. Michael Sammut, Steve Hart and I were at Penguin Bank and it was going off, with surface explosions everywhere. The sharks were bad though, so we decided to take the hooks off poppers and get some video and photos of surface hits. We had been doing this for a while when all of the sudden a huge school of bludgers showed up behind the boat. They just followed us for about 30 minutes and every lure we cast saw dozens of them chasing it down. We got some spectacular footage and shots of the horde and it was great fun as they followed lures right to the rod tip time and again. I could see exactly what Darryl meant, with the pack of fish chasing the lure each time actually pushing up the water above their backs.

An underwater view of a school of bludgers at the Mackerel Islands.

It was incredible to witness. Bludgers are easily mistaken for goldspot trevally, especially with their spots on the flanks, but they have a more elongated body and more pointed nose. Their eye is also closer to the level of their mouth. They are more streamlined than most of their trevally cousins, so don’t have quite the pulling power of the other species, but are certainly a willing lure and bait taker and can be a lot of fun to catch.

We have caught most of ours on stickbaits in the 8-14cm range, but they are also quite partial to metal jigs in slightly deeper water. Most of the bludgers I have caught have been relatively small, in the 2-3kg range, but they do grow to almost a metre in length and 11 kilos.

They are largely an inshore species found near structures such as reefs and island, where they hunt fish, prawns and crabs, and we’ve encountered them generally in water from a couple of metres to around 30m. Bludgers are usually found from Shark Bay north.

Scott’s Stories – The importance of fishing for mental health

For some people fishing is just a hobby or a pastime, but for leading Queensland marine biologist Daryl McPhee, it was a genuine life-saver.

The health and well-being benefits of fishing are often forgotten when discussing the role it plays in our lives, but Daryl knows from his own experience just what that can mean.

Now based at Bond University, he is one of Australia’s leading experts on the marine environment, including having worked with the WA State Government on shark mitigation policy, but as a youngster Daryl found himself in the heartbreaking position of being homeless.

With an alcoholic mother, a teenage Daryl turned to fishing as a way to feed himself, leading to lifetime love of our pastime.

A young Daryl McPhee with a Spanish mackerel

Daryl recently recounted his remarkable life story, and the crucial part fishing played in it, to ABC Radio.

“I had a passion for marine science as a little kid,” he said.

“My father committed suicide when I was 18 months of age. He was an alcoholic.

“I wasn’t introduced to it by my parents; I just love fish and fishing and everything started from there.”

At the age of 13, Daryl and his mum were evicted from their rental property in Sydney and headed to Brisbane, forcing him to live in a crisis shelter.

He had a fishing rod and would catch the train to a spot where he would fish to feed himself while also studying at a local high school.

“In the early years I didn’t go (to school) too much, because I didn’t have money to do things like excursions,” he said.

“I’d go fishing for food, because fishing became the way that I fed myself.”

Ultimately, Daryl realised education was the key to a better life and studied diligently, choosing science for a career and graduating from University of Queensland with three degrees.

His mother passed away after a prolonged illness related to alcohol, but she would be proud of her son’s achievements, in which fishing still features prominently.

“As I’ve come to realise through my own academic studies, fishing is very important in terms of mental health, particularly (for) men,” he said.

“A lot of men aren’t happy or predisposed to want to do things like yoga etc, but fishing is a mindfulness activity that works well for a lot of men.”

Darryl has recognised how important fishing is for his mental health and others – particularly men.

Daryl has passed the love of fishing onto his children, and takes great pride in posting pictures of their latest catches to his Facebook page.

Like he did all those years ago when he had nothing else, their catches are usually destined for the family table, where they are greatly appreciated.

Daryl himself still fishes every week and also enjoys taking some of his students fishing.

Chris Dixon’s tips on avoiding the dangers of rock fishing

Thinking about fishing from the rocks? You need to read this article!

Fishing from rocks comes with many risks, particularly in poor weather conditions and high swell. Even seasoned rock fishers can get caught out by so-called ‘rogue’ waves if not fully aware and prepared. Take Recfishwest safe fishing ambassador and famed rock fishing Youtuber, Chris Dixon for example.

Chris’s  YouTube channel ‘Dixons Fishing’,  keenly watched by 23,000 followers, showcases his fishing adventures from the beach, off boats and from some of WA’s renowned rocks and cliffs.

Check out Chris’s YouTube channel by clicking here

He is all too aware that the adrenaline rush of hooking up to a rampaging kingie or blue groper “off the stones” can override the constant attention you need to pay to the ocean and what it’s doing when rock-fishing at all times – with the worst possible outcome if you’re not careful. “I had always seen those heart-breaking crosses at fishing spots where tragically others have lost their lives,” said Chris.

Rewind a decade to a 21-year-old Chris eager to try his hand at rock fishing, when he was confident his skills would keep him safe from dangerous waves. “I was young and stupid, but careful. I was thinking surely it wouldn’t happen to me,” said Chris. “On a summer’s day, I was fishing a ledge that faced the Southern Ocean and was gaffing a sizable groper for my brother, Aron. I was five metres below him on a large sloping rock with us both well above the height any waves had been that day. It was a sunny with small swell and light winds, so nice conditions.”

But the mood of the waves can unexpectedly change very quickly

Rock fishing’s rewards should never make you lose sight of the risks involved – no fish is worth your life!

“I lost four grand’s worth of gear, but was lucky not to lose my life,” seasoned rock fisher Chris Dixon. 

“Out of nowhere, I looked to my left and watched a wall of white water washing along the rock towards me. I dropped the gaff in my hand and turned and dug my fingers into a crack near my feet, getting as low as I could.

“The water washed right over me for what felt like minutes. Once the water receded, I was left right where I had been but was completely soaked,” said Chris.

“It only took that one wave to wash most of our tackle into the water from where it was set up. I lost $4,000 worth of gear was lost, but I was lucky not to lose my life.

“I had no life jacket on and I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to get out of where I was or make it far enough swimming to reach safety. We were a few hours of four-wheel driving from the nearest highway and far from any help should we have needed it. If I had gone in that day, I am certain I wouldn’t be here now.”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way and there are simple ways you can prevent yourself from ending up in a similar position by paying close attention to your surroundings before dropping a line off the rocks.

Rethinking what you thought you knew about waves 

“That day made me stop and think about my close call with a so-called ‘freak wave’ and the things that caused it. I re-checked the weather for the day and swell was the same size at 1.5m all day, so seemingly nothing to be concerned about,” he said.

“There was however a swell direction change from south-west to south-east and a swell period change from 14-seconds out to 18-seconds. I had no idea what that meant and how it could affect my rock fishing, but with a bit of research and talking to others, I am confident I had figured out the cause of ‘freak’, ‘king’ or ‘rogue’ waves. Whatever you call them, I don’t think they are unpredictable.”

Click here to watch this video on how to fish the south coast safely

Here are Chris’s tips on how to be one step ahead of the rogue waves.

Spotting wave direction changes

Wave and swell conditions can change very quickly along the WA coastline.

“Firstly, direction changes. With rock fishing your waves go back and forth in a rhythm. If you sit and watch a spot before fishing, you’ll see how most waves do almost the same thing and then a set will come through and be a little larger, nothing out of the ordinary.

“The most common swell direction for the southern part of the WA coast from Shark Bay to Esperance is south-west. This is what I call the dominant swell direction, and this can change frequently.

“When big high-pressure cells sit in the Great Australian Bight during summer, the swell can be flattened by the easterly winds and then the waves can come from the east along the south coast. Up to 2.5m easterly swells can be seen each summer and this is a dangerous swell if you’re fishing on rocks facing into it.

“Winter storms or cold fronts can produce southerly or even west-north-westerly swells. On days where the swell direction changes, you can have a wave pattern that comes through with no issues and then one wave will come from the direction it’s changing to. It’s those waves that bounce off the rocks differently.

“It can cause the following few waves to pick up in size and come much higher up the rocks than they would have otherwise. This is what I would call a freak wave. These conditions I find normally come a day before a storm (often the calm before a storm) or during summer as sustained winds change the swell direction.”

Understanding the ‘swell period’ and ‘swell timing’

“The next important factor you need to understand is swell period. There are two parts to this. Put simply, it’s the time between each wave. The larger the number in seconds, the more force the wave has. For example, a 12-second period has 12-seconds between each wave.

For rock fishing, the rhythm of waves is steady if the swell is evenly spaced. If a wave out of time with the others suddenly hits the rocks, it can multiply or bounce off other waves. The easiest way to describe it is like double bouncing someone on a trampoline. This unsteady rhythm can cause unpredictable waves and dangerous conditions. To reduce the risk of coming across a situation like that, I won’t fish any location that faces into the swell direction that has a change in a swell period.

The second part to swell period is the timing. A 12-second wave two metres high has half the energy of an 18-second wave also two metres high. The shorter the swell period, the taller a wave stands up, but it doesn’t have much water behind it moving so it has less energy to push up the rocks. However, a larger swell period of 16-20 seconds like we encounter before storms can be moving a lot more water with a lot more force. Even though the swell is the same size, a longer period wave can push much further up the rocks. I won’t fish any day with an increase in swell period or a swell period over 16-seconds in a location that faces into the swell to avoid these dangerous waves.

With that extra information I can now better predict what the swell is going to be doing and how it will affect my day’s fishing. I can then choose a location to fish that will be safer in the conditions.”

More ways to ensure coming home safely from a day’s rock fishing

Chris also recommends keeping a logbook and recording conditions each time you fish – if you’re serious about fishing from the rocks on a regular basis.

“I have a diary that I keep with all the conditions from all spots I’ve fished previously. I can then look at the weather forecast for the day I want to fish and check my diary to confirm it’s been safe to fish that weather in the past. Since making a few changes like that over the past decade since my scare, I haven’t come across another freak wave,” he said.

If you’re not experienced rock fishing should not be attempted lightly and keeping the sand between your toes might be a better option. But if you are going to give it a crack, make sure you take on board Chris’s advice above, you should also check out our  rock fishing safety tips here.

 

Chris’s brother, Aron, with a very solid hook-up on the south coast.

Scott’s Species – Rankin Cod, ranking high on the target list

Ephinephelus multinotatus

Eating: 4.5 stars

ID – Dark grey/brown colouration, white spots on flanks.

A solid Rankin at the Mackerel Islands for Morris Wilkinson.

Rankin cod, are to my eyes, one of the most striking fish in the ocean.

Once you have seen one you’ll never confuse them with anything else. With their greyish/brown colouration and large white spots they are easily identified.

Their colouration does decrease as they get older, but not enough to confuse identification.

Rankin cod are found from the Abrolhos north, but really come into their own from Carnarvon. In recent years they appear to have moved slightly farther south, with the odd fish regularly caught off Perth.

I can recall Darryl Hitchen getting one a few years ago off Fremantle. The interesting thing about Rankin cod is how aggressive a predator they actually are.

A nice rankin cod on a soft plastic.

While they are generally a demersal fish caught near the bottom, they will often come up a long way to hit a bait or lure.

We’ve caught some rippers when trolling for Spanish mackerel at the Mackerel Islands. From what I have seen Rankin are a species that has actually continued to do well despite increasing fishing pressures, despite being usually found around coral structure in relatively shallow water.

There seem to be more caught each year on our Mackerel Islands Seafaris, and the size also appears to be increasing with time.

They are generally regarded to grow to about a metre and 9 kilos, and we’re seeing more and more towards that size. In recent years we’ve had some of the biggest I have ever seen caught at the Mackerel Islands.

Morris Wilkinson and I caught a battered old fish at the Mackerels a couple of years ago, which bore the scars of a long life. As they are quite an aggressive fish, Rankin aren’t usually hard to catch in areas where they are found.

As mentioned a deep-diving bibbed minnow trolled over decent bottom structure, which they like, is a good way to pick them up.

We’ve also caught them on jigs, soft plastics and soft plastic vibes, usually in 10-20m of water. Occasionally we’ve spotted schools of fish on the sounder that have turned out be groups of Rankin.

A rare rankin cod on fly near the islands off Carnarvon.

They are partial to the usual baits such fresh fish flesh, mulies and squid. A standard paternoster rig is all that is needed.

Rankins appear to respond to berley and a successful approach is to anchor an hour before the change of tide, and set up a berley trail as the current slows, bringing fish to the boat.

The most productive fishing with berley is usually an hour either side of the tide. Drifting over likely ground is also effective.

Big Rankin are tough fighters and will try to head straight back to structure when hooked, so the angler needs to be quick to turn their head.

Rankin cod provide a good return for each fillet, with beautiful white flesh, and taste excellent, making them a popular catch both for looks and edibility.

Release of 300,000 marron soured by DPIRD blocking stocking of Harvey Dam

The RFIF-funded marron stocking program recently reached its target of seeing 300,000 marron released into popular south-west dams, with another huge release.

In April, the team from Aquafarms released more than 220,000 one-year-old marron between the waters of Waroona Dam and Logue Brook Dam, taking the total number of marron stocked into our south-west impoundments over the last two years to a staggering 300,000!

However, this great news for WA’s 10,000 licensed marron fishers has been soured by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) last-minute decision to block stocking of marron into Harvey Dam.

Premier McGowan releasing marron into Harvey Dam at the start of the RFIF project in December 2019. No more marron were stocked into the dam subsequently after DPIRD blocked it.

When Premier McGowan and the then Fisheries Minister launched the program helping to release several hundred marron into Harvey Dam in December 2019, it was because Harvey Dam was considered the primary stocking location for this project given its position as one of WA’s favourite marroning spots.

At the start of the program, DPIRD raised concerns that collecting many breeding animals from Harvey Dam for the project could impact on recreational fishing experiences. DPIRD’s preferred approach was for breeding animals to be primarily sourced from commercial aquaculture operations.

However, around a month before stocking Harvey Dam with animals that were one year old, DPIRD informed Recfishwest that, as the broodstock animals had not originated from Harvey Dam, approval to stock them there would not be provided. This rationale, however, did not apply to Logue Brook or Waroona Dams.

“Bureaucracy gone mad”

When asked to clarify this decision, DPIRD gave the following response:

“During the course of the project significant changes occurred, including where the marron were sourced from. DPIRD, in balancing best outcomes for the marron fishery (including genetic diversity) with ensuring the project could be delivered, determined that it would not be appropriate to allow stocking of commercial-line marron to Harvey Dam.”

Recfishwest Operations Manager Leyland Campbell said DPIRD’s decision to shift the goalposts at the eleventh hour was an example of government “bureaucracy gone mad.”

“While DPIRD didn’t want the project to use broodstock from Harvey Dam, they also wouldn’t allow Harvey Dam to be stocked unless it was with offspring from Harvey Dam marron,” he said. “This Catch-22 scenario would make for a good episode of ‘Utopia’, but it is not the sort of actions Recfishwest expect from a government department that took pride in its once excellent reputation for fisheries management.”

Some of the 300,000 marron being released into Logue Brook Dam last year as part of the RFIF project to stock dams in the South West – except the region’s premier marron fishery due to a decision made by DPIRD at the eleventh hour.

DPIRD’s rationale for refusing to allow stocking of Harvey Dam is largely based on findings from a two-decade old research project that concluded marron in the Harvey River were a fast-growing strain that had potential to improve marron production in commercial farms.

Click here to see the 2007 research projects findings DPIRD used to justify blocking marron stocking in Harvey Dam 

What DPIRD has failed to adequately consider is the same research showed the Harvey River marron strain had low levels of survival, extremely low breeding success and any ‘fast’ growing traits couldn’t be incorporated into commercial breeding programs, something confirmed in subsequent research in 2015.

In addition, for more than a decade, the commercial marron industry has undertaken mass selected breeding programs and the growth of commercial marron now exceeds the growth of this ‘fast’ growing marron strain.

DPIRD urged to get on board and back the vision of year-round marroning

“Like us marron fishers are going to be very disappointed that DPIRD at the eleventh hour have used decades old research to refuse stocking in Harvey Dam. The marron that were not allowed to be stocked in Harvey Dam reach trophy-size quicker, have better survival and have better reproduction – it seems ridiculous to not use them to help improve recreational fishing experiences in the premier marroning location of a recreational-only fishery.

“The Premier announcing this project on location at Harvey Dam in 2019 should have sent a strong signal that it was an important project for the Government and that government departments should ‘get on board’ and help make it happen.”

Leyland added while the last-minute refusal to allow stocking of Harvey Dam will reduce the quality of outcomes from the project and may push back the dream of year-round marron fishing, it should not detract from the fact that for the first time a large-scale marron stocking program has successfully been undertaken.

“We can only hope that when future projects designed to develop our freshwater fisheries are put forward, such as enhancing barren impoundment habitats or stocking alternatives to trout in the face of a drying climate, DPIRD chose to help rather than hinder,” said Leyland.

Recfishwest will continue to pursue the dream of year-round marroning

Northern mulloway – Here for a hard fight, not a long fight

Also known as black jewfish, northern mulloway are renowned for their fighting qualities and with good reason.

Protonibea diacanthus

Eating: 3 stars

ID – Wedge-shaped tail.

Often found around inshore structure such as reefs, northern mulloway will head straight for cover when hooked and boast plenty of power, certainly more than their southern cousins, provided by a strong tail wrist.

Northern mulloway have plenty of power, largely due to their strong tail wrist.

They can grow to more than 1.5 metres long and weigh up to 40 kilos, at which size they would take a lot of stopping.

They can be found in up to 60m of water, including in estuaries where they will hold in deep holes, but research from the Northern Territory has shown they release poorly in anything but the shallowest of water and this needs to be considered if the fish is not to be kept for the table.

They are usually found from Onslow north and around the top end to Rockhampton in Queensland. However, I have seen them caught in Exmouth Gulf in good sizes.

We had a fun day chasing them in the Gulf a few years ago, and I was surprised by how many we hooked. While they can be found throughout the Kimberley and are usually an incidental catch, Broome’s Roebuck Bay would be one of the most consistent spots, with fish often taken around the plane wrecks. They are also sometimes taken in the shallows of Roebuck Bay.

Legendary Kimberley guide Bluey Vaughan with a nice black jewfish.

I have also heard of good numbers of fish being caught by jigging near the Horizontal Falls. Solid gear is required to subdue black jewfish and heavy spinning or overhead outfits need to be used to stop the bullocking runs. Line of around 30kg is suggested, along with heavy leader, and fresh baits work well. Live baits or whole fish are best, while squid and cut fish baits will also work.

Running sinker rigs are popular so the fish does not feel any weight initially, but the angler has to react quickly once the hooks are set.

Metal jigs will also work on northern mulloway, as will large soft plastics. On a recent Kimberley trip we got some by dropping soft plastics vibes into snags, similar to tactics for barramundi. Slow trolling large minnow lures has also produced the odd fish in some locations.

Government beach ban – a slap in the face and a taste of things to come?

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby recently wrote to Recfishwest advising vehicle access to the Hooley Road entrance to Boranup’s South Beach will not be restored after being abruptly closed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) with a boulder blockade in March 2021.

South Beach within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is a popular fishing beach providing shore-access to deep water where fishers can target snapper, mulloway, tailor and salmon.

Recfishwest strongly believes this decision completely ignores something of immense value to the WA fishing community.

“We are constantly told that fishing values, history and ongoing access are key considerations in both land and marine management planning processes,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.

“Yet, here is another example of a unilateral decision to simply ban an activity which has been undertaken for generations – driving along the beach to our favourite fishing spots is an important part of our WA culture, it’s part of what makes WA great.”

Hiding behind a flawed management document

Since first publicising this issue in March 2021, Recfishwest has raised the closure with the Director General of DBCA along with Environment Ministers Dawson, Sanderson and Whitby and with Fisheries Minister Punch.

After losing access to South Beach for two salmon seasons, and repeatedly raising this issue at the highest levels of government, the Environment Minister has missed the opportunity to address the issue on behalf of the community and ignored our reasonable calls and suggestions for a compromised approach. Instead, he appears to have been simply led by his department, which itself is hiding behind a management document that is seriously flawed.

Boranup is a popular salmon fishing beach in autumn but 4WD access is crucial to be able to chase the schools.

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park Management Plan said it should be closed in line with its vehicle access plan established in 2015.

Yet, this management plan doesn’t identify any environmental or conservation value that is compromised by allowing vehicles to access South Beach.

In Recfishwest’s view, the restriction on vehicle access to South Beach seems to have more to do with making management easier for DBCA than protecting environmental values or encouraging sustainable use and enjoyment of the environment.

“The disappointing decision by the Minister not to restore a beach access track is a slap in the face for local fishers,” said Andrew.

Despite the beach blocakde debacle, Recfishwest is still urging people to contribute to DBCA’s marine park planning process with public consultation currently taking place on several proposed marine parks as part of the McGowan Government’s Plan for our Parks Initiative.

“While some may say ‘Why bother?’ it is more important than ever that people contribute to these processes, so  that what matters most to fishers is not ignored,” said Andrew. “The State’s recreational fishers deserve better.”